Respekt has just published a story which provides more detail on a recent successful intelligence operation carried out by country’s BIS counterintelligence service, an agency that has been criticised for incompetence by President Miloš Zeman. The weekly says that BIS shut down a group of Russian hackers, who were part of a wider international network, in early 2018.
A few months ago, President Miloš Zeman attacked the Security Information Service (BIS), saying that the Czech counterintelligence was incompetent and had not revealed a single Russian or Chinese spy in six years. This caused a reaction not just from the media but from BIS itself.
Its chief, Michal Koudelka, said via the agency’s website that BIS had stopped the activity of tens of Russian and Chinese intelligence officers, providing the destruction of a Russian intelligence network on Czech soil as an example.
However, BIS refused to comment further, providing no details.
Now the Czech weekly magazine Respekt claims to have some information about what took place, after conducting its own long-term investigation across the Czech Republic and Russia.
The author of the story, journalist Ondřej Kundra, who specialises in intelligence affairs, says that it seems the group operating in the Czech Republic was part of a wider international cell which coordinated its attacks.
“We still do not have all the information on this topic, but our information and our sources are telling us that this really was a kind of international network, with similar groups of Russian spies based in EU countries. We do not know on which specific operation they were working, however.”
According to Respekt, the group operated under the cover of two private IT companies, conducting hacking operations from the companies’ computers. These, the magazine’s sources claim, were transported within the Czech Republic by vehicles under Russian diplomatic cover.
Mr. Kundra says that the Russian spy ring also included Russians who had acquired Czech citizenship.
“We do not know how many were involved, but we do know some were in this group. Originally, all of them were Russian citizens who came to this country some years ago and got citizenship. As we can see now, this was a security threat, because they then spied, something that was probably easier for them as Czech citizens.”
This also makes the matter more complicated, says Mr. Kundra, because the Czech police cannot simply expel people who have been granted Czech citizenship. This means that until sufficient evidence against the alleged perpetrators is gathered, they can remain in the Czech Republic.
Mr. Kundra is reluctant to reveal his sources and Czech intelligence has refused to comment on the findings. However, the question of how Russian citizens gain Czech citizenship is set to be brought up at the next meeting of the Government Council for National Minorities by one of its members, Aleksey Kelin.
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